One bizarre kneel-down aside, Kirk Cousins did everything he was asked to do - and then some - to lead the Washington Redskins to the NFC East title and only the franchise's fifth trip to the playoffs in the past two decades.
After six last-place finishes over the preceding seven years, the Redskins (8-7) surprisingly went from worst to first and will host a postseason game in the wild-card round in two weeks. Coach Jay Gruden said preparation for potential opponents will begin right away.
''We'll start breaking down the possibilities that we have,'' Gruden said Sunday on a conference call with reporters. ''We'll start with Seattle, (which), I believe, is probably the most likely opponent. We'll get our guys starting to break them down, start getting a peek.
Gruden said he has not decided how much, or even whether, to play starters such as Cousins in Week 17 at the Dallas Cowboys (4-11) in a game that means zero in the standings to either team.
''It's a big game for us to keep our momentum,'' said Gruden, in his second season as an NFL head coach, ''but we also have to be smart about the guys that are a little bit (injured) and get them well for the playoffs.''
The Redskins locked themselves in as division champions and the NFC's fourth-seeded team by beating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-24 on Saturday night. Cousins was superb, just as he has been for weeks, completing 31 of 46 passes for 365 yards, with four touchdown passes - his third game this season with that many - and zero interceptions.
''I'm very satisfied to see how the tables have turned this year,'' said Cousins, a fourth-year QB who was a fourth-round selection in the same draft that Washington chose Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall pick. ''Now we look forward and say, `Where can we go from here?' and `How high can we take it?'''
His only blemish Saturday came at the end of the first half. With 6 seconds left and no timeouts, Washington led 16-10 and had the ball at the Philadelphia 6.
Worst-case scenario would be a field-goal try for a nine-point lead, right? Instead, Cousins took the snap and knelt down, running out the clock.
''There was a little bit of confusion,'' Gruden acknowledged Sunday, before saying the mix-up was ultimately his fault.
''We'll learn from that son of a gun, that's for sure,'' he said.
Gruden explained he wanted Cousins to try to throw a fade pass to Pierre Garcon in the end zone or throw the ball away to stop the clock and leave time for a field goal.
''Kirk got the ball, didn't like the look and I guess he thought we had a timeout,'' Gruden said. ''If there was any confusion, the coach has to take full responsibility. That's on me to make sure everybody is understanding what's going on and how many timeouts we have and the objective of the play. If there's any confusion there, I've got to take the blame and correct it for next time.''
Notes: C Kory Lichtensteiger (neck) is eligible to come off injured reserve for the playoffs, and Gruden said he'd be comfortable starting him if he's healthy, despite missing half of the regular season. ''We'll have to wait and see if he gets back to being 100 percent,'' Gruden said. ''I don't think he's quite there yet, but he's getting closer and closer.'' ... After Saturday's game, players had Sunday off and will have Monday off, too, then do a walkthrough Tuesday and resume a normal work schedule.
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